The GOP majority in the Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would allow students to carry firearms on college campuses. This ruling marks the last hurdle for the bill before it is presented to Gov. Butch Otter to sign. The popular liberal response has been to condemn these measures as counterproductive to the interest of safety. Yet, the slow pace at which gun reform is introduced would suggest that such condemnations are not effective. Rather than remaining in staunch opposition to the possession of guns, liberals would do well to be conscious of how pervasive gun culture is in the United States.
After the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, an incident that shook Americans on all ends of the gun control spectrum, President Barack Obama and both conservative and liberal lawmakers vowed to toughen laws in an effort to prevent another tragedy. However, instances of large-scale public shootings continue around the United States and almost no progress has been made. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are unwilling to compromise on the issue. Liberals continue to push for blanket bans on handguns in cities such as Chicago and Washington, D.C. Moreover, California recently tried to implement a heavy restriction on carrying concealed weapons. These bills have all been struck down in federal courts for violating the Second Amendment, which confirms that a blanket ban on an individual’s right to bear arms is not a viable first step to take toward reducing gun violence.
Given the high tensions that accompany the debate on gun laws, the left should adjust its message and adopt a more tactful approach to the historically-charged issue. When liberal pundits and politicians make their case for increased gun legislation, their rhetoric must reflect cognizance of the deeply entrenched role that firearms have played in the United States. The Second Amendment explicitly states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” This language is hardly ambiguous and, as such, gun control advocates must frame their argument in a way that does not implicate this constitutional liberty. Instead, the left should make the case for sensible gun laws that simultaneously preserve the intent of the Second Amendment while preventing senseless tragedies from transpiring.
While both liberals and conservatives can concur that averting another Newtown should be a top priority, their approach to the problem could not be more conflicting. While Idaho Democrats may be correct that the bill to permit firearms on college campuses is largely unwarranted, the state GOP has an unmistakable advantage on their side — the Second Amendment. Liberals must incorporate this constitutional right when they discuss solutions to America’s gun problem.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 3 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]